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From dream to screen

Meet inspiring filmmakers at The Grand Cinema's 25 New Faces Festival

Elaine Keystone in training. /Jeff Soyk

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Ah, the dog days of August. The sun still shines, but summer seems to be fading fast. Most of the biggest and shrillest Hollywood releases have come and gone by the time the last July 4th firecracker has petered out.

Leave it to The Grand Cinema to fill this void with something fresh and inspiring for local movie lovers. Since 2010, the theater has built a tradition out of its annual "25 New Faces" festival, and Part Four begins this Friday, Aug. 16, concluding six days later on Aug. 22.

More than 30 original works have made their way into a fest that found its genesis in the way, way back of 1998, the year Filmmaker Magazine published its very first "25 New Faces of Independent Film" list. The magazine nailed it with honorees like Ryan Gosling and Hilary Swank, so answer the call of your inner hipster and come meet these cool new filmmakers on the block before they get even cooler.

The Grand's executive director, Philip Cowan, understands the value of an artist's presence at any event, particularly one like 25NF where art and creator stand in equal importance.

"Any time you bring filmmakers to talk with their film ... it really (brings) out the audience, because it's so much more special," he said.

As of this writing, a confirmed 19 out of the 25 will make an appearance in Tacoma during the next week - the highest attendance for a 4-year-old festival already recognized throughout the independent film world.

"In the first year, (filmmakers) were like, ‘What is this (festival)?'... and the ones who came just kind of took a leap of faith," Cowan recalled. "All I have to do now is just mention it and they're there."

Emily Carmichael will arrive on opening night to answer questions about her two short films, RPG OKC and The Hunter and The Swan Discuss Their Meeting. I suspect most of the questions posed to this writer-director will revolve around what makes her so funny. By injecting an element of fantasy into her work, she succeeds in making a well-worn subject for countless scripts (modern relationships!) something refreshingly original.

Ironically, for a person being honored for her forward-thinking material, "there's something very traditional about my sense of humor," Carmichael said.

Neil Simon's play Laughter on the 23rd Floor, though set in the 1950s, "as a kid ... made me laugh the hardest," she recalled. Learn more about Carmichael at her website,, and YouTube channel, /KidCanDrive.

Joining the Aug. 18 screening of Hollow is the film's creator Elaine McMillion. She spent her life in McDowell County, W.Va., and left after graduating from college in 2009. Yet her concept for Hollow - a chronicle of her home state's depopulation - never left her.

"This project has been on my mind to do for several years," she said.

McMillion's efforts have resulted in a unique re-envisioning of the traditional documentary form. In Hollow, the film's subjects create and share their own stories, and can add new content to this "interactive documentary" on the film's expanding website, (Safari or Google Chrome browsers required). One peek and you'll end up taking an immersive trip into a county "misrepresented in a lot of media" in McMillion's view.

"The most important thing is that people walk away understanding a more authentic view of the place," she said. "And that the residents ... felt properly represented."

Whether it's the desire to give old-school comedy a new facelift, or to help a community regain its self-image, every filmmaker represented at this year's festival has an idea, but more importantly, the drive to make those ideas reality. Come meet a few faces putting their dreams to screen. Buy tickets to the festival at For more information call The Grand Cinema at 253.593.4474.

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